Taboo

the gorge is endless & insatiable
there is a river, then many mouths
& there is your mother
in the next room cooking soup
& there is a mother
on screen bent over stovetop
with stepson rocking back
& forth into hunger
& now spoons clank
on plate before dinner
& your privacy settings–
a closed door
& now your father
home from work
& now the stepfather
makes his daughter behave
& your sister
walks in off the bus
& now the step-sister
removes the mushroom of her skirt
taking her brother by the name
of their familiar
revelation
which is all relative
to the mold of a home
all mildew & dust
spiderweb & tangle
& turn of doorknob
to walk years
through thin hallways
of broken light
fixtures & coughs
to sit in the dining room
all together & eat
years of steaming
garlic, basil, tomato,
salt

 

(originally published in The Cerurove, Fall 2017)

Getting Sober

If I don’t watch it, this lake
is vodka and I won’t care I don’t
know how to swim. Getting sober
is like that. I go out into the world
and look you in the eyes and say
I’m fine. I’m having a good time
and you go on never knowing
I was half-underwater, that
there was a monster trying
to make its way to the surface
and I had to push him down.

 

(originally published in Rattle, Winter 2018 – nominated for Best of the Net)

Dry Lips

the stream
       parched

the heart
       lips

the lung
       lips

the light
       dark

the night
       parched

the night
       lips

the lung
      dark

the stream
      heart

the lips
      heart

the heart
      always

      parched

(originally published in Off the Coast, Fall 2017)

Half

to cut immigration
is to cut me half

-Filipino I am already
halved quartered diced you take

a knife to my mother she keeps
a knife at her neck we both are

American in the blade of the word
I used to pretend to be more

my more-accepted half
to have to choose

is to have nothing

 

(originally published in Serving House Journal, Fall 2017)

Two Nightmares in My Car on Rosewood

I.

A shadow figure outside the Ford’s locked door.
He jiggles the handle
hey can you drive me to Santa Clarita
I said no I have been drinking whiskey
which was a lie
he said let me in
I did not

II.

When I wake for a walk in the middle of the night,
clothes bunched on red benches under streetlights
like someone had been there
and disappeared

III.

I call my ex
I can’t stop thinking about you

shadows float from her eyes
into mine

cigarette smoke

bats

understand: we lived
in the cave of each other

IV.

under orange streetlights

blankets hang from headrests
to drape me from the world

 

(originally published in The Nottingham Review, Fall 2017)

What We Talk About When We Talk About

Pepper burned my mouth
and all I could think of
in that salivated flame
was you telling me your tongue
no longer felt the heat
of a moment: meaningless
sex– bite and garment
here between the green
walls of your zen room
your small goldfish
swimming in circles–
submerged flame and hunger
for love so intense
I flicker poems to you
thumbs on lighters
waiting for the matchbook
to catch– combed pomade
hair, designer jeans, and wit–
what I want is origami
and fire– instead
we talk about love
but unlike Raymond Carver
we have nothing
more to say.

 

(originally published in Words Dance, Summer 2017)

Consuming Raw Chicken

can be severely detrimental, but don’t panic–
salmonella can be killed. You must know
its internal temperature. If not fully known,
your risk of distress increases. The dark tunnel.
The bones. If you suffer from adverse effects,
you will know within seventy-two hours.
Chills, fever, fatigue. Hallucinations.
If there is blood in you, inform your doctor
immediately. He may request a sample
to determine if you are alive, if symptoms
are what you’re even there for.

 

(originally published in The Blotter Magazine, Summer 2017)

The Christmases That Were Forever

my own advice: treat every gift
like you’re nine in ninety-seven.
rip the heart out of your parents’
wrapping jobs. don’t notice
the hanging phone calls,
the coils of collection,
the foggy snarls at the door,
the stay-in-bed allure radiating
from big, red boxes hidden
behind the couch for after
we opened all the other presents,
for after we grew up,
after we got jobs.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2017)